In the fall of 2016, Kaitlyn Dill saw a movie that changed her life: The Mighty Ducks, the legendary comedy-drama about a youth hockey team starring Emilio Estevez as the team’s coach.
“I instantly became obsessed with the movie and hockey,” Dill said. “I begged my (parents) to get me into skating classes. From there my hockey journey began.”
Flash-forward to 2024. Dill, 15, who lives in Elmhurst, is a sophomore at York Community High School, a second-year center for the Fenwick girls’ team and a forward for the Windy City Storm U16 club. She is a talented left-handed shooting playmaker. “I love to use my vision to find open areas on the ice and help my teammates make plays and score. I also don’t mind shooting the puck when I see the opportunity.”
Fenwick was 4-1 in the tiering round and entered 2024 with a 4-4-1 Scholastic Regular Season record, putting the Friars in second-place in the 6-team division. Barrington (16 points) entered January with a perfect 8-0 mark in Scholastic play. The Chicago Central Romans are tied with Fenwick for second-place, each with 9 points.
“We are young, strong and have depth,” Dill said. “We can go far this year, if we all show up and play together like we have been. It’s fun to play with so many girls from various club teams I’ve grown up playing with.
“We can put the puck in the back of (the) net. We are a tight group on the bench and in the locker room, and that translates onto the ice. Our (team) goal is to win the Metro Girls League Championship and the Illinois State Championship.
“Personally, I want to be a top 10 scorer in the league.”
In Fenwick’s first 14 games, Dill has 15 goals and 6 assists. Her 21 points land her No. 9 among Metro Girls scorers and she is tops on the team in scoring. Ella Skotty is second on Fenwick with 16 goals, 1 assist (17 points) in her 13 games played.
“It has been a dream of mine since 6th grade to play for Fenwick as a freshman,” said Dill, whose youth hockey career included time skating for the Oak Park Ice Bears for two squirt seasons, the Elmhurst Chiefs and the Chicago Hawks.
“My career highlights would be a tie: first, when my Hawks team had a Cinderella run to the USA Hockey National Championship, and second, when I was invited and participated in the USA Hockey National Development Camp.
“I’ve had many influences over the course of my career, yet two people stick out the most. My Hawks year was one of my biggest years for growth as a player and a person. Madison Gaines was my biggest influence that year. She inspired me and encouraged me through my battles and my ups and downs. She helped me through so much on and off the ice that year. She was and is an incredible leader. I have her to thank her because she encouraged me to work hard both on and off the ice and that helped lead me to where I am today. The second person who sticks out the most would be my coach from last year, Coach Andrea Renner, who helped me on and off the ice. She helped me with my skills on the ice while helping me mature and develop as a player and person.”
Fenwick had the No. 2 seed in the 2023 Illinois High School Hockey Girls State Tournament and the Friars stopped No. 7 Glenbrook, 3-2, in the opening round. Fenwick was ousted in its next game, falling 4-2 to No. 3 Loyola.
The team’s overtime victory over Glenbrook stands out to Dill, as that’s when she scored her favorite goal.
“I hopped on the ice as the puck entered the zone,” Dill said. “Eleanor Rowe-Smiley won a battle along the boards and set up the play by threading a needle with a perfect pass. I was in front of the net, received it, then shot the puck in one smooth moment. It was surreal because after the goal I celebrated with all my teammates and we got to move on to play another game.”
Dill said skating for the Windy City Storm U16 has certainly improved her overall game. “I love the speed and challenge of the game (at that level) and how it pushes me to get better,” she said. “It is awesome getting to play around the country against high levels of competition and meeting other girls who love hockey.”
Dill’s college plans are already set … at least in her mind: “My dream is to play NCAA Division I hockey,” she said.
Off the ice, Dill enjoys working out, golfing and spending time with friends. “I love hanging out with my Windy City teammates. We are a tight-knit group and spending time with them is a lot of fun,” said Dill who, for the last two summers, was a caddie at Oak Park Country Club.
“I use different workouts that can translate into strength on the ice. I also shoot pucks in my driveway to improve power and accuracy,” she said.
SLAPSHOTS WITH … KAITLYN DILL
Favorite NHL Team: Chicago Blackhawks
Favorite NHL Player: Patrick Kane
Favorite Sports-themed Movie: Happy Gilmore or The Mighty Ducks
Favorite TV Show: The Simpsons
Favorite Pre-game Meal: Spaghetti
Favorite app: Snapchat
Celebrity You’d Like To Meet: Ryan Reynolds
Best Hockey Tip: “Go slower with the puck and faster without it.” - Nathan Lamb
Hardest Slapshot on Fenwick: Ella Skotty
Most Accurate Shot on Fenwick: Ella Skotty
Fenwick Player Who You Could See As A Hockey Coach: Riley Evans
Best High School Uniform (other than Fenwick): York Hockey Club’s gray jerseys